05/19/2004 2:52 PM ET
FanFest fun for all ages
Houston will be 14th edition of All-Star FanFest
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
It is described as "Baseball Heaven on Earth," and countless fans have seen why since the annual John Hancock All-Star FanFest was first introduced in Toronto for the 1991 Midsummer Classic.
|The doors opened Friday to the 2004 All-Star FanFest in Houston. (Ben Platt/MLB.com)
Having the best players in baseball all in one place is still the reason you come, and having a ball while you are there is a memory that stays with you forever.
"FanFest was really meant to be a gift back to the community that has been awarded the All-Star Game, and it still is," said Morgan Littlefield, director of special events for Major League Baseball. "It's the one way that fans can be guaranteed to be a part of the All-Star activities. Not everyone gets to go to the ballpark for the actual game, but FanFest is the event where everyone can go over five days. It's the ultimate baseball theme park.
"It was the brainstorm of a group of people at Major League Baseball who were trying to come up with an event that really reached out to the local fans. That enabled the local fans to play a larger role in the event and be a part of it -- to be a bigger part of the All-Star Game experience in itself. It is such a big thing for a community to be awarded the All-Star Game, and starting with that first FanFest in Toronto, we wanted something that had a stronger impact locally."
This year's All-Star Game is July 13 at Houston's Minute Maid Park, and the FanFest is scheduled for July 9-13 at the nearby George R. Brown Convention Center. This interactive extravaganza, the largest baseball event in the world, celebrates the national pastime -- and its fans who make it possible. There are more than 40 baseball-themed attractions scheduled in Houston, including:
State-of-the-art video batting and pitching cages, where you can test your skills by facing life-size images of local Astros stars Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, as well as Greg Maddux, Sammy Sosa and many others.
Baseballs, bats and other tools of the game being made right before your eyes. Have you ever wondered how a baseball is actually hand-stitched, or how a bat is lathed? Fans come away with a new appreciation for the game.
Interactive clinics, where fans can learn the game of baseball from real Major League Baseball players, coaches, managers and umpires.
The game's priceless history. Fans can take a walk through time and see treasures from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown or pay tribute to the heroes of the Negro Leagues.
You never know what you will find at the John Hancock All-Star FanFest. Last year, Major League Commissioner Bud Selig chatted with fans there during a special Town Hall meeting about the state of the game. You can run from third to home like the pros do, and you can shop to your baseball heart's content.
Littlefield said last year's FanFest combined attendance was nearly 80,000. The highest was more than 170,000 at Pittsburgh in 1994.
"It's the best opportunity for people in Houston to be a part of All-Star week," Littlefield said. "FanFest is a family event and there really is something for everyone."
Tickets are available now and are priced at $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under, senior citizens and military personnel. Children under 2 are admitted free.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.